Posts Tagged ‘Captain America’

How to become a superhero

Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillia, an alternative history of World War II featuring superhuman Nazis and British WarlocksHow does one create a superhero? Movies such as The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man make it look straightforward, if not exactly easy. Hollywood would have us believe superpowers aren’t all that unusual. Perhaps I’m a skeptic, but I sometimes wonder if the difficulties in become superhuman aren’t underestimated just a bit.

After all, you can’t plan for a freak accident. You can’t plan on being bitten by a special arachnid, as was Spider-Man. You can’t plan to accidentally survive a massive dose of gamma radiation, like the Hulk. You can’t plan to be born of Asgard, like Thor. Most of us will never have the opportunity to volunteer for an experimental super-soldier program, as did Captain America.

But what about the self-made superheroes? Those who deliberately transcend their limitations, using technology and (frankly) vast piles of money? Well, as much as I’d like to become Iron Man, I’m not a supergenius billionaire industrialist with massive technological resources at my disposal. What about Batman? I’m out of luck there, too, because I’m not a reclusive borderline-sociopath multi-millionaire with the peak physical conditioning of a dozen Olympic athletes combined. It’s safe to say these paths are closed off to most people.

So what to do if you’re cash-strapped but can’t rely upon serendipity to do the hard work? (more…)

Captain America, Bitter Seeds and Nazis in fiction

Promotional poster for Paramount's CAPTAIN AMERICA, a superhero movie based on a Marvel comic of the same name - and its link to Bitter Seeds“I want you to know,” said John, “that you completely ruined Captain America for me.”

This was last summer at our local SF convention, Bubonicon. (Which, yes, is named after the bubonic plague.  But that’s another story.) John and I belong to the same writing community here in New Mexico, so we chat from time to time. But we didn’t see this movie together, or even in the same city. Which made his complaint a bit confusing to me. 

“Oh, about 20 minutes in,” he said, “my wife leaned over and said, ‘Hey!  He looks like Ian!’ So all through the rest of the movie I kept picturing you up there fighting Nazis.”

Steve Stirling overheard our conversation. He joined us, nodding. “Yeah. Me, too.”

And so it became a running joke at last year’s convention. (A joke at my expense, naturally. But I refuse to carry a shield.) Fast forward 10 months to last weekend, when I shared this story with a visiting friend. Corry said, without missing a beat, “We saw it on video recently. I told my husband, ‘That’s what Ian looks like.'” 

The cover for Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis - an alternate history novel featuring superhuman Nazis fighting British WarlocksNow, if you ask me, these people are quite mad. There isn’t the slightest resemblance. But when I object, they’re always quick to clarify: No, we didn’t mean the strong, square-jawed, charismatic Captain America. We mean the early version of Steve Rogers. The pre-super-soldier-serum, pre-Vita-Ray Steve Rogers. Of course you don’t resemble the superhero, Ian. We meant the scrawny runt.

Well, obviously.   

Aside from my desperate need for a solid dose of serum and Vita-Rays, I share little in common with young Rogers, much less his superheroic alter ego. I’ve never punched Hitler. Not even once.  (I’m not saying I wouldn’t, but I’ve never had a chance.) I have, however, used Nazis and superpowers in my novels, which meant I was firmly embedded in the target audience for Captain America.

And Steve Rogers and I would surely agree on one thing: Nazis are a pain in the neck. For him, fighting them. For me, writing them.

I expended a fair bit of time and energy ruminating on the fictional superpowered agents of the Third Reich in Bitter Seeds (UK | ANZ). I wanted to tell myself an entertaining adventure story; something chewy and fun, like a good comic book. But I also wanted to tell a story that could be molded around the nooks and crannies of history. So I had to think carefully about the grim realities of the Third Reich, which forced me to consider carefully the portrayal of Nazis in my novel. And I did. I thought long and very hard about how to approach these books before I started.


BITTER SEEDS: Blood magic, sociopaths and “good people doing bad things”

The World War II alternate history fantasy novel Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregellis, where the Nazis have superhumans and the British use dark magicsIan Tregillis’s debut fantasy novel BITTER SEEDS (UK | ANZ) is a sinister reimagining of World War II events. In this supernatural alternate history, British forces use dark magics to hold back an invading army of Nazi superhumans. Orbit’s James Long put some questions to Ian on where he got his ideas from . . .

The premise of Bitter Seeds – Nazi super soldiers versus occult powers conjured up by British Warlocks – is unusual, to say the least! What was the original inspiration behind the story?

A number of years ago, around 2002 or 2003, I read a magazine article about a little-known Allied secret project during the Second World War called Project Habakkuk. Habakkuk was conceived during the height of the Battle of the Atlantic, when German wolf packs were destroying Allied shipping convoys. The idea – and this is one of those wonderful places where truth is so much stranger than fiction – was to build ships out of ice. It sounds mad but it’s actually a rather clever idea! Alas, for various reasons the project never made it past the prototype stage (Maybe because it is just a little bit mad.)

But I couldn’t get that image out of my head, of vast bergships plying the North Atlantic and changing the course of the war. So I began to wonder how the Axis might have responded if Habakkuk had been a success. A few days later, as I was driving to work, the answer hit me out of the blue: obviously, Ian, the Germans would have sent a pyrokinetic spy to sabotage the shipyards . . .

The ice ship never made it into Bitter Seeds, but the pyrokinetic SS agent did. (more…)